Caprese Salad Redux

I JUST MADE AN AWESOME CHOP SALAD out of basics found in the supermarket.  Seriously, it turned out so fresh and so good that I’m not sure why I haven’t made this sooner!  Here are the basics:

  • 2 cucumbers, choppedImage
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (you can cut them in half if you so wish)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • At least 1 cup of mozzarella cheese (the pearl balls work fantastic!)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place your salad ingredients into a large bowl and give it a quick toss.  Drizzle your olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper on top and toss the salad again.  This tastes best if served immediately.

Sweet, simple, to-the-point, and all sorts of awesome!

— Sarah

Creamy Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Tortellini Soup

ImageRECENTLY I CAME ACROSS A RECIPE from the blog “My Favorite Things” and I felt compelled to share it here, with some slight adaptations to meet my family’s dietary needs.  The original recipe calls for an envelope of white sauce mix.  My grandmother needs to be on a low-sodium diet, so most of the sauce mixes that we find on supermarket shelves are loaded with sodium… not good for those of us trying to watch our blood pressure!  It’s very easy to make your own white sauce in advance, and I will attach my white sauce recipe below to help you out.  Also, be sure to check your nutrition labels!  If you’re aiming to adjust for dietary needs, take into account the amount of sugar, sodium, or whatever ingredient you’re adjusting for based on the ingredients you’re using to create your final meal.  It’s not very difficult, and you can still get yummy results from the adjustments.  The best part about this recipe is that it’s done in the Crock Pot, so you don’t have to worry about slaving over your meal.  I have also added my own little tips and tricks in there for what I would do to make the dish my own.  Enjoy the deliciousness, and thank you to the original author of the recipe for creating it!

  • White Sauce (see below for preparation instructions)
  • A 14oz. box or can of low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups of fresh sliced mushrooms (I would use a mix of different mushrooms to enhance the earthy flavor.  Think shiitake, cremini, button, portobella…)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped onion
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed basil (you can use dry or fresh, but be sure to adjust to flavor.  I tend to prefer fresh herbs)
  • A pinch of salt (1/8 tsp or less.  A little salt is acceptable to enhance flavor, but don’t overdo it)
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed oregano (fresh or dry, just like the basil)
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
  • 6 cups fresh baby spinach (it sounds like a lot but it will wilt as it warms up, so don’t panic)
  • 1 package (7 or 8 oz.) dry cheese tortellini
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated parmesan or pecorrino romano cheese on the side to serve with the soup

In a skillet, melt your 2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter on medium heat.  Add your mushrooms and onion, saute until their juices are starting to release and their aroma becomes apparent.  Don’t cook them entirely as you’re going to put them into the Crock Pot to finish cooking.  Season with your small amount of salt and your black pepper.  Set aside.

Pour your broth into your Crock Pot and add your tortellini, garlic, basil, oregano, and cayenne pepper to it.  Give it a brief mix, then add your mushrooms.  Cover and cook on high for 3 hours until your tortellini are al dente (slightly firm).

While your Crock Pot works away, make your white sauce.  Using the same pan from your mushrooms (hey, no sense in dirtying another pan, right?), melt 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter and add 6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour to it.  Mix well until it is thick and smooth, creating a roux.  This will help thicken your sauce without lumps!  To that, add 2 cups milk and 1 cup evaporated milk (or just 3 cups of milk if you prefer… doesn’t matter), and stir well.  Heat the mixture until it bubbles along the edges (DO NOT BOIL IT!) and thickens up, about 8 to 10 minutes.  This will make a medium white sauce. Set it aside for now until your Crock Pot ingredients are almost done cooking.  It will thicken a bit more as it cools.

During the last 20-30 minutes of cooking, add your white sauce and spinach to the soup and mix well.  Allow it to warm up with the rest of your ingredients at the end of your cooking time; this will help you avoid curdling your milk/cream.  The spinach will wilt a bit but remain green and not soggy if you don’t cook it for an excessively long period of time.  Serve with the grated cheese on the side and warm, crusty bread.

Enjoy, and happy cooking!

— Sarah